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Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

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Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

Old 7th Dec 2015, 16:47
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Valuable Mnemonics

mikehallam - (your 7819)

I'm with you, regardless of whether the gear is fixed or folding, I do my BUMPFFH checks out loud, looking at, or touching, the appropriate item and, if in a high wing aircraft, at the "U" check I look out of the side window and say "I have a wheel" and expect the person in the right hand seat to give me the same response (providing that it is there,of course)! I don't think that this is silly at all, wheels have been known to fall off fixed gear aircraft on more than one occasion.

Happy Landings

Ian BB
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Old 7th Dec 2015, 17:23
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Thanks, pic downsized. Geriaviator performs suitable grovel

Sorry, I too never heard of the cross decoration. I am typing from a very old dot-matrix printout and sadly we can't ask Jack Stafford the author. As Danny has so often said, we must collect these memories while we can!

Long may your prop keep turning, sir! I think it's very wise to keep to your drills as some of us find it difficult to remember small but important points. Now how do I turn off this computer?
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Old 7th Dec 2015, 18:13
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Our flight commander was a Welshman called Gus Davies, and we were assembled in the dispersal to meet him. He was tall, athletic and dark, with a small 'Clark Gable' moustache, and on his right breast was the small silver Maltese Cross given to those who defended the beleaguered island.

Try this for size, Gentlemen, given that there is no direct clue to the background of the award to this very distinguished officer, unless someone (named Eacott?) Down Under can unscramble the reference to "silver Cross of Malta (REL/12888.003)."

Please also note the apparent colour of the brevet!

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Old 7th Dec 2015, 19:22
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DFM in May, DFC in June ... those Malta guys really worked bloody hard. My first Deputy SATCO was one of them, albeit with no medals, who flew off a carrier to deliver his Spitfire and then start shooting!

Colour of brevet may, of course, be influenced by Antipodean photography, but it doesn't look 'gold' to me.
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Old 8th Dec 2015, 00:01
  #7825 (permalink)  
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Come one, come all !

Geriaviator (speakihg in the voice of Jack Stafford [RIP]):
...it will be dogfight, dogfight and dogfight – that's all that matters”...
We did a lot of tail-chasing (pity we didn't use gun cameras). The one great lesson I learned was: stay alive - (the kills will come to you if you can do this). It was the main lesson I carried away from my OTU, taught to us all by an imaginative CFI. To save you the trouble of looking it up, here is my story:
...Our C.F.I. was a Wing Commander Farmer. We didn't see much of him, but he had one idea which would stand all of us in very good stead. Whenever he was out of his office (which seemed to be most of the time) he'd jump into "his" Spitfire. This had a very distinctive white spinner with a spiral painted on it. In this he'd roam around looking for lone Spitfires. Any that he found in the area would almost certainly be his. Finding one, he'd try to "bounce" it - carry out a mock attack. Catching one napping, he'd haul alongside and note the aircraft letters. There would follow an uncomfortable five minutes in front of your Flight Commander, and a "fine" of a day's pay. If, however, you'd "kept weaving", never flying straight and level for more than a few seconds at a time, watching your rear-view mirror and screwing your neck round * to spot any stranger behind, you'd see the CFI coming. Waiting till he came into firing range (about 400 yards), you'd turn tightly into him - the standard defensive parry. He'd waggle his wings to say "Cheers" and fly off to find another victim.

EDIT: Note * above, Post 7793 on page 390 refers.

It drove home the most valuable lesson a fighter pilot must learn - Watch your back! - you'll never see the aircraft that shoots you down! It recalls an old saying (from the WWI trenches) "You never hear the shell that kills you!" There is a romantic myth that air fighting was a knightly combat, and of course there was some like that, especially in the large scale dogfights of 1940. But a much more effective way is to creep up on your man with a piece of lead pipe...
...and on his right breast was the small silver Maltese Cross given to those who defended the beleaguered island...
Never heard of this (but only visited the island in peacetime), but it was a nice idea. But, AFAIK, you couldn't have any extras on a uniform. Even my (honestly earned) USAF wings were verboten. (But then, those Wild Colonial Boys always were a law unto themselves !)
...on the Miles Master under our browned-off instructors. It was tedious, slow and boring...
I've never found any aircraft "boring" (a Tiger Moth can kill you as easily as a Typhoon !) The Master was comfortable, docile and roomy - ideal for an away weekend. Of course, the Harvard was a far better lead-in to a Spitfire (or was it vice-versa ?)
...In the Battle of Britain, many more than fell to the much-vaunted Spitfire...
The Spitfire's task. as I understand, was to give the German fighter escort something to play with, to distract them from seeing-off the Hurricanes which were shooting down their bombers. Any of the escort who got shot down in the process was a bonus.
... Although the Spitfire was more glamorous,[3] the Hurricanes were more numerous and were responsible for most of the German losses, especially in the early part of the battle. The turn-around time (re-arm and refuel) for the Spitfire was 26 minutes, while the Hurricane's was 9 minutes, which increased its effectiveness...[Wiki]...
This surprises me. The eight wing guns were under similar panels, the tankage (85 galls) filled from the top of the fuselage in both cases (?). How so ?
...maybe an aircraft I would fly had been in battle...
Very probably. Our Spitfire Is at Hawarden were survivors of the great days two summers before.

mike hallam,

BUMPFFH is the all-time favourite - the one we all learned in the war.
(Never is a long time).

Danny re your post #7808 & Geriaviator
Ta !

Ian BB,
...wheels have been known to fall off fixed gear aircraft on more than one occasion...
They fall off retractibles too (sad story on p.175 #3486 this Thread).

...I think it's very wise to keep to your drills as some of us find it difficult to remember small but important points. Now how do I turn off this computer?...
So I'm not the only one ! (comes to us all in time).

....who flew off a carrier to deliver his Spitfire..
IIRC, because a Spitfire's flaps (pneumatic) are all-up or all-down, they trapped a suitably sized block of wood between them to give about 20°for take-off from the carrier. When comfortably airborne, you would put flaps down, block falls out, flaps up and away you go.

Jack and John Purdey,
...the small silver Maltese Cross given to those who defended the beleaguered island...
As reply to Geriaviator above. And just imagine having to polish that lot ! And yes, the brevet is OK for colour, but the centre, I suppose, reads "RAAF".

Cheers to you all, Danny.

Last edited by Danny42C; 9th Dec 2015 at 09:40. Reason: Addn,
Old 8th Dec 2015, 12:19
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I've been away from pprune for a little while, so imagine my delight when on my return I found this excellent thread still going strong. I just thought I'd make a quick post to say that it's great to see new people (welcome Walter603) coming out of the woodwork to keep it alive. Keep up the good work!

And now... I have some catching up to do.

Regards all,

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Old 8th Dec 2015, 15:30
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Those pPruners still sending their requests to Santa should consider Combat Crew by John Comer, a B-17 flight engineer/top turret gunner who kept a journal of the 25 missions he flew in 1943 from Ridgewell, at a time when the casualty rate from his base was 80%. His writing matches anything I have read on the bomber offensive and shines far above most accounts of USAF operations. It's available from Amazon as paperback or Kindle, and I could not put it down. Comer describes not only the experience of flying on operations but also what went through the minds of his comrades as they watched their friends plunging to their doom. An aviation classic.
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Old 9th Dec 2015, 03:57
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Chugalug2 and John Eacott

I did use the system Chugalug2. I made half a dozen runs during my training at that time, but only the most vague idea of what it was for. It was a kind of bomb-aiming exercise by the pilot. Theoretical results of how far the bomb fell from the target were given to each student.

It's 9 December as I type, by the way; 75 years since I reported for duty at RAF Cardington as an AC2.
My son never ceases to surprise me with his own pleasant memories:
["I carried a set of his RAF wings in my wallet for many a year"]
Thanks son, you're a champ!
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Old 9th Dec 2015, 05:04
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Old Comrades

Off by train to London for Christmas leave. Same overwhelming thoughts, same dazzling effects of our startling transformation evident to all who understood these things. Two pretty girls sat in our compartment, with four new “saviours of civilisation” to make eyes at them. One of the girls (the prettiest one of course) had a puppy that she kindly asked me to nurse for a few minutes. My day was made - until she said quite innocently, "What do you do, in the Air Force?" Oh, callow youth! How to be deflated, in one single instant! Why couldn't she see what an important young Sergeant-Pilot I had become?

We arrived at Kings Cross Station, London, in the late afternoon, and it was already getting dark, being mid-winter in England. There was a smell of fog in the air. My mates left me for their own homes. I went to find a telephone, and rang my father, "Major Walter Eacott, DCM, Middlesex Home Guard". After about half an hour's wait, he arrived in an army car driven by a soldier, and collected me complete with my white kit bag, for the pleasing drive home to Chingford.

What an exciting Christmas followed. Mother and sister were both as pleased as Punch to see me. In spite of the black-out, the eternal shortages of food and the other limitations of wartime, we had lots of celebrations, a Christmas party or two, a wonderful Christmas dinner (by Mum of course) and plenty of visits to see friends and family members around Chingford.

The leave was all too short. Before January 1942 was more than a week old, I was off to my new training school, called "Operational Training Unit", otherwise known as 54 OTU, at RAF Station Church Fenton, in Yorkshire. There I was to fly Blenheim twin-engined fighter-bombers, in preparation for my role as a night fighter pilot, and it was another very memorable experience.

Yorkshire is a bleak, cold County in winter. Church Fenton didn't depart from the normal. Snow lay around for the rest of the month, and well into February. We managed to continue our training, sometimes having to take part ourselves in the job of shovelling and sweeping snow off the runways so that the aircraft could take off and land. The aeroplanes were old, and almost obsolete. They were the nearest approach the Air Force could give us to the deadly Beaufighters, on which we would fly solo before we left Church Fenton, but which were far too scarce and expensive to waste on training us!

We flew a great deal at night, naturally, as this would be our active task when sent to Squadrons. Lots of day flying was also carried out, and I can still remember the difficulty of finding our way around northern England with the ground below carpeted for so many weeks in snow.
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Old 9th Dec 2015, 06:55
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Old Comrades.

Walter (your #7830),
...The leave was all too short. Before January 1942 was more than a week old, I was off to my new training school, called "Operational Training Unit", otherwise known as 54 OTU, at RAF Station Church Fenton, in Yorkshire...
...Yorkshire is a bleak, cold County in winter. Church Fenton didn't depart from the normal. Snow lay around for the rest of the month, and well into February...
I got to 57 OTU on 1st July 1942 Three lovely, warm summer months in Hawarden (Flintshire), having overwintered in Alabama and come home in March.

You timed it wrong, mate !

Old 9th Dec 2015, 16:58
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Fascinating story, Walter, were the Blenheims dual control? They must have been ideal trainers for their big sisters. Was your night training just that, or did you have tinted goggles (two stage amber)? And looking back to Magister, did you have instrument traing under the hood as they did on Tigers? Please keep your memories coming, we are all enjoying them, even more the chat between you and Danny! Best wishes and many thanks
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Old 10th Dec 2015, 04:01
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Yes, the Blenheims were dual-controlled. We had Mark I's and IV's, short nosed and long nosed. Cockpits were most uncomfortable, broken ends and sharp bits of metal seemed to be sticking out everywhere. We didn't use goggles for night training. Magisters under the hood for instrument training - yes that was routine.
One interesting item I don't think I've mentioned elsewhere; most veterans will know about the carrots and good eyesight furphy that was made public was that ``Wg Cdr John Cunningham ("Cats-eyes") owed his success to carrots. The story was put out to keep radar secret, and we did get more than we wanted in our meals. In fact carrots contained a soporific discovered long after a number of young pilots lost their lives by falling asleep at the controls. I think 5 died on our course; one was another mate, Harry Beck who went out on a solo night flight and came back in a bag.
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Old 10th Dec 2015, 04:29
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You're right there Danny, even though the weather was a constant source of distraction.
1. No flying, just snow-clearing with a bunch of paid but unwilling Irishmen. So 3 of us after breakfast made our mucky way to the rear of the airfield at Church Fenton, broke out of camp over the barbed wire, found the Tadcaster Road and boarded a single-decker bus. 5 minutes later we slid gracefully off the road into a ditch.
2. Somehow we got to a railway station and eventually arrived at Tadcaster, in time for a late lunch and beers in a local pub. Then off to the pictures.
3. Arrived back at Church Fenton and took the direct route through the main gate. No comments nor challenges from anyone. On making enquiries in the Sergeants' Mess, we were told that shortly after breakfast departure a Tannoy broadcast released all Course members for the day, with transport provided for those wanting to go to town!

Another big mistake, Danny.
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Old 10th Dec 2015, 09:08
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Walter, the losses on Blenheims at Church Fenton were reflected across the country at other OTUs, Bicester included. Could the common carrot have been a convenient scape-goat for the handling limitations of this aircraft? It had been at the very edge of aeronautical technology in its time, but that time was too soon for WWII of course, as was quickly apparent in front line use.

Whether its use thereafter for training purposes was for the best is debatable, but there was a war on and it was by then the only real use to put it to, and anyway it could be argued that if you could learn to handle a demanding training aircraft the easier you would find the operational one. In the meantime you were probably put off carrots for life!

Thank for the thoughts on the camera obscura. I guess that the signal, in whatever form, to the ground team was for the training staff. They simply had to wait for the trainee to initiate the moment of simulated bomb release to do so.
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Old 10th Dec 2015, 10:01
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I think 5 died on our course; one was another mate, Harry Beck who went out on a solo night flight and came back in a bag.
This quote jumps out of the page. How many were on your course, Walter? As far as I can see, the RAF lost some 8,300 aircrew in training accidents, not only solo pilots but also entire crews including navigators, engineers, gunners etc. My father recalled that some of the OTU Wellingtons should not have been flying at all, their weary engines were a challenge to experienced pilots and the student had little chance when one failed. The Blenheim's handling quirks were recalled many years later when the one and only restored specimen crashed on its first flight, but looking back after all these years, Walter, would you consider the Beaufighter was more difficult?
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Old 10th Dec 2015, 22:36
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Danny Gets it Wrong Again !

I said (#7826):
.... the tankage (85 galls) filled from the top of the fuselage in both cases....
Not so, the Hurricane had two wing tank fillers, so refuelling would take a bit longer per aircraft.

Old 11th Dec 2015, 01:39
  #7837 (permalink)  
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A Prophet is without honour in his own Country.

Another snippet from your #7830:
...Why couldn't she see what an important young Sergeant-Pilot I had become?...
But a little old lady in Liverpool was more clued-up !:

...And we were the "blue-eyed boys". A little of it rubbed off on me one morning. I was trotting along in Liverpool with my new wings and sergeant's stripes. I can remember exactly where I was - by the side of Lewis's, opposite the Adelphi. A dear little old lady buttonholed me: "GOD BLESS YOU, MY BOY", she quavered (surprisingly loudly). Passers-by murmured approval. Liverpudlians wouldn't see all that many aircrew at that stage of the war, so I suppose I stuck out a bit. Naturally shy, I was dumb with embarrassment, but managed to stammer a few words of thanks. I hadn't even flown my first "op", but Liverpool had taken two year's battering from the Luftwaffe, so I suppose I looked like a possible St.George for their dragon. I'll never forget that day.
I was posted to Bournemouth, another Transit Camp, in a seaside hotel - had been a rather swish one, I think, but can't recall the name. Here the natives were well used to seeing aircrew and old ladies did not greet you with little glad cries - nor young ones either, come to that, (the Yanks were in town)...
Ah, well. Danny.
Old 11th Dec 2015, 07:29
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Blenheims in the Med

An aside from a longtime lurker on this wonderful thread:

The Blenheim's shortcomings became all too clear in the Battle of France, yet it soldiered on in front line service because nothing better was immediately available. For a rivetting and moving account of Blenheim anti-shipping operations in the Mediterranean in 1941, look for a copy of The Shiphunters, by R E Gillman (John Murray 1976, ISBN 0 7195 3299 X). The losses were horrendous, and the bravery of the crews hard to imagine in today's age.
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Old 11th Dec 2015, 13:51
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Jack Stafford would still recognise the runways of Annan from which he flew a Hurricane like this, even though most of the airfield is now covered by Chapelcross nuclear power station. When the newly-minted Kiwi pilot arrived at 55 OTU in 1943 the Solway Firth had become a very busy place. This sketch depicts airfields at Castle Kennedy near Stranraer, West Freugh, Dumfries (now a very interesting aviation museum), Annan (marked in red), Longtown, Great Orton, Crosby (now Carlisle Airport), Silloth, Anthorn and Kirkbride.

Well away from the busy airspace of southern England, the Solway skies were filled with Hurricanes, Typhoons, Oxfords, Ansons, Wellingtons, Stirlings and Halifaxes, mostly battle-weary veterans which had been passed down to the Ops and Heavy Conversion Units. Amphibious operations were practised along the Scottish coast to the north, while the Solway Firth and the Isle of Man some 40 miles away made a realistic substitute for the cross-Channel operations that would herald D-Day.

Many of the thousands of pupils who took off from those training airfields never landed back. The mist-shrouded hills of Galloway took their toll, their sad stories well told in the Dumfries museum. To the south, twisted fragments of aircraft can still be found in the Lake District, as they can in Snowdonia. As Walter recalls in his #7833, training accidents claimed thousands of airmen, and Jack Stafford said in post #7728 that he had lost a fellow trainee during a Harvard dogfight through the New Zealand mountains. It's clear from the following post that first experience of 'real' combat flying was a shattering experience:

I'm killing you Staff, tat-tat-tat, you'll soon be dead

Post no. 9 from the memoirs of Tempest pilot Flt Lt Jack Stafford, DFC, RNZAF

ONE MORNING we assembled in dispersal and Gus called for silence. “Today I'm taking one flight out and towards the Isle of Man. Scottie will bring a flight in, penetrate the air defence, and attack the Isle.” I was all ears. I had a twinge of disappointment when I found I was to fly with Scottie; I liked him, but Gus was something else. Gus and his flight left, and we took off later, flying our Hurricanes in formation with Scottie. Our callsign was Mustang.

Scottie had briefed us to fly low and fast, right on the waves, attempting to evade the eagle eyes of Gus and his gang. Flying low with plenty of boost we set course for the Isle of Man, some 40 miles away. We were all on the same wavelength, but Scottie had ordered radio silence. We droned on and it began to look as if we had avoided interception when Scottie broke the silence: “Mustang aircraft, bandits six o'clock above, coming in, hold course”. I saw the tiny spots coming out of the sun, glinting occasionally and getting larger by the second. Their speed was incredible and I wondered why Scottie didn't react. Suddenly his voice came over the R/T: “Mustang aircraft, ready to break port 180 degrees … GO!”

On the word GO every Hurricane whipped around at full throttle and we went headfirst into the attackers. I could hardly believe the closing speed and in seconds we were past each other and aircraft were skidding, slipping and weaving all over the sky. I saw a Hurricane slightly above and ahead. I turned to get on his tail but he seemed to disappear, only to slide easily behind me. I pulled into a steep turn but with no effort he stayed close behind. I recognised his aircraft – it was Gus.

“I'm shooting you Staff”, he said. “You're a piece of cake, turn the bloody thing.” I pulled hard on the stick and felt I might stall as the airspeed fell.
With bored indifference his voice came over the radio. “I'm killing you Staff, tat-tat-tat, you'll soon be dead”. I hauled hard on the stick, the engine screaming, I felt crushed down in the cockpit, I could hardly breathe. Round and round we went, keeping a little top rudder in an attempt to maintain height. I broke into a sweat with the unbelievable effort, but Gus sat there with supreme ability. He had me cold. “Turn the f---ing thing Staff, you're almost dead. Tat-tat-tat. I'm shooting you, Staff”.

Almost blind with effort, aching and soaked with sweat, I pulled even harder. Ribbons of vapour streamed from the wingtips and the Hurricane juddered on the edge of a stall. The tone of the voice changed. “Good boy Staff, I can't kill you now, keep it up, try a little harder, don't ease off, don't ease off, harder, harder!” I was almost at my physical limit; I had never turned like this before. This was nothing like the good fun of play dogfights around Blenheim in the Harvards. This is what it was really like, kill or be killed, victory or death, and hard, hard work. This was no game.

Last edited by Geriaviator; 12th Dec 2015 at 10:15. Reason: Pic resized
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Old 11th Dec 2015, 17:30
  #7840 (permalink)  
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To Danny and others....

Only recently learned of and became addicted to this thread. I sincerely salute all of you who earned RAF pilot brevets during WWII and to all other RAF men and women who served. I am very glad to be a "former colonial" who is free to speak English - even if our version is considered a "foreign language" to the Queen's subjects.

My father's ancestors immigrated to the USA from England during the late 19th century. My father served in the USAAC during WWII and, perhaps of interest to you, Danny, in the CBI. Sadly, he passed away 37 years ago and I didn't have the sense to ask him all the questions I might have.

He too landed by ship in Bombay, having come from California, to Australia and thence to the subcontinent. Quite an experience for a young midwestern farm boy. He was an aircraft mechanic, who assembled from crates of parts packed in cosmoline, many different types, including I believe P-38's and P-47's, but sorry I have no data to back that up. He would have arrived, I believe in 1943 after a year's technical training in the US, including a visit to the Curtis factory.

He served much of his time in the vicinity of Calcutta, told a few humorous stories of unintentionally offending the natives and of a harrowing dash through the streets fleeing from a Sikh armed with a terrible bladed weapon.

My father also told of assembling and caring for P-47's. The initial engine power ups, with tails tied down and sandbags on the tail. The many Indian workers/laborers whom he supervised. Of test pilots taking off with these hot airplanes for the their first time, all excited about that huge engine and the water-injection, which they learned by experience and possibly a fatality or two, that water injection should not be used during takeoff roll.

Dad eventually became a flight mechanic - aircrew - on C-47's and C-46's. Was introduced to a famous US pilot, Philip Cochran, during his action in/over Burma. At some point he had the privilege of visiting the Taj Mahal. He and his brother, who also happened to be nearby in the CBI, for fun built their own motorcycle from heaven knows what parts and pieces.

Dad came home in 1946 as a Technical Sgt in the USAAF, initially tried to get his A&P and start a civilian career in aviation - just like thousands of others - but a job in the field being hard to come by, he gave up on that. He tried dairy farming and then became a home-builder and had a wonderful business in the small Wisconsin town I grew up in. I admire my father beyond words and only wish I could live up to my image of him. I measure myself everyday, even at the age of 65, by my memories of him.

So, to Danny and all the others of my father's generation who put it all on the line, and as Danny said, served because if they didn't, no one would, "Thank you". Thank you also to the men who described their experiences so well during that chaotic time. After serving 22 years ('73-'95) in a much more modern Air Force, I can hardly imagine how you did what you did.

Last edited by GlobalNav; 11th Dec 2015 at 18:24.
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